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20 Dollar Coin, United States, 1855

20 Dollar Coin, United States, 1855

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This twenty dollar Liberty Head golden double eagle coin was minted in 1855 at the newly established U.S. Mint in San Francisco. James Marshall’s 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill kicked off the California gold rush and changed the wealth and reach of the nation as suddenly gold was in plentiful supply and the population was shifting westward. An Act of Congress on March 3, 1849, authorized the coinage of gold dollars and double eagles by the U.S. Mint, and in 1852 Congress authorized President Millard Fillmore’s plan to establish a mint in San Francisco to remove the need to send the gold back to Philadelphia for minting. The mint opened in 1854, and immediately began producing gold dollars and double eagles. The newly approved double eagle coin was designed by James B. Longacre in 1850 and produced at the mints in Philadelphia and New Orleans. On the obverse, or front, of the coin is the head of Liberty facing left wearing a coronet, inscribed "Liberty." She is surrounded by thirteen stars, representative of the original states, with the engraver’s initials “JBL” at the base of the neck. The date “1885” is below the head. The reverse features a design similar to the Great Seal of the United States. A heraldic eagle holds a scroll which reads "E Pluribus Unum." The eagle protects a shield, which represents the nation, and holds an olive branch and arrows in its talons. The letter “S” denoting the San Francisco mint is below the eagle. Above the eagle are thirteen stars in a halo, together with an arc of rays. The reverse rim reads “United States of America/Twenty D.”
Object Name
date made
U.S. Mint, San Francisco
place made
United States
place of issue
United States
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall:.3 cm x 3.4 cm; 1/8 in x 1 11/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Estate of Josiah K. Lilly
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Josiah K. Lilly Jr. Collection
American Enterprise
Coins, Currency and Medals
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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